Things used to be different. There was a time when my wife and I would head over to friends' houses, put our gaming hats on and do battle in an evening of joyful board gaming. It was so carefree. So easy.
That was a little over four years ago now. Then little people invaded our lives and made it more wonderful than we could possibly imagine. But there was something of a sacrifice to be made. Games night had to be cancelled indefinitely.
We do our best now to get together, but with so many night time routines to navigate, it’s rare that we manage a single board game a month. It’s devastating!
So, I’ve had to adapt as a gamer. When buying games, I make sure they play well at two to ensure my wife and I get that much needed game time. But something that’s surprised me about my adaptation is my step into solo gaming.
One of the main reasons I love board games is that they bring friends and family together in a much too digital age. We all step away from whatever screen is crying for our attention and focus on each other. I have seen our relationships grow and become stronger as a result. Thank you very much, board games.
But sometimes I am desperate to play a game and no one else is. So, I am starting to build a well-balanced solo shelf (though my wish list tells me to expect more in the not too distant future).Here are some games that I love to play solo.
Friday is the only purely solitaire game I own and I love it. Assuming the role of Robinson Crusoe, you must navigate your survival on a desert island, building a deck that will flesh you out with greater skills to defeat future obstacles and eventually two pirate ships (if you make it that far). As you defeat said obstacles, they enter your hand. You have gained experience and with it the power and/or fighting points on the card.
The nifty thing about this, is that should you fail to overcome an obstacle, you are able to discard some lesser cards in your hand, which allows you to streamline your deck so that you stand a better chance of success in the future. Even in the losses you gain strength.
This game can be punishing and any wrong move will certainly make survival much more difficult, but I love this challenge. With it only taking 20 minutes to complete a playthrough, I often find myself playing a few times in a row.
Magic Maze is a rare thing; a game that can accommodate one all the way up to eight players. Now, I’ve never played this with seven or eight players and a part of me doubts whether it would be a good gaming experience, but I do know for sure that it plays fantastically well solo.
The premise of a solitaire game is the same; four mythical characters charge around a shopping mall in search of a weapon having had their’s stolen by some no good punk and then, once each weapon has been retrieved, they must make a hasty retreat as the mall’s alarm bells echo all around (because let’s fight theft with theft, right?!). You win if all characters escape before time runs out.
In the solo game, you can only use one hand as you turn over cardboard tiles with a single action on it - right, left, up, down, escalator etc. - and move the pawns accordingly. It can get really frantic as you rifle through the tiles, one by one, to get to the one you need.
It’s tough, but so rewarding when you succeed. Another one that easily gets played a few times in a row.
Like most co-op games, Flash Point can be played well with just a single, lonely, player.
In a solo playthrough, you operate as three firefighters charging through a burning building in search of people and pets to rescue. If you safely evacuate seven of them, you win the game.
But it’s not as simple as that. As the building burns, bursts and crumbles around you, there are also hazardous materials to remove in order to prevent explosions and, not only that, you are never sure if the Point of Interest tokens (which have either people, pets or blanks on them) are actually people in need of rescuing. It’s devastating fighting through fire only to find you’ve fought for nothing.
This game (designed by Kevin Lanzing) is punishing, but so much fun. And to top it off, you can decide how difficult you make it. You can have more starting explosions and hazardous materials for an extra challenging experience or you can have fewer if you actually want to win the game.
No matter how you play it, it’s always a worthwhile challenge.
I love this game. It has quickly become my favourite game of all time. I could probably find a place for it on any blog entry, but this was an easy inclusion. Stonemaier Games seem to have struck gold with their Automa system that allows players to enjoy a solo experience that, for me, almost matches the multiplayer game.
The solo variant plays much like the regular game, as you build your vineyard, placing workers to create an effective and smooth engine to produce and fill orders of wine.
In the solo playthrough, you only have seven rounds to achieve your goal of surpassing 20 victory points. Each spring you will choose one of the round perks, which will provide you with the perk and a glass token to use at any time to play a bonus action during the summer or winter seasons.
But it’s not going to be as straightforward as that, as you have the pesky Automa to contend with.
Before each Summer and Winter, you flip the top card of the Automa deck to reveal where it will place workers during those seasons. You then have to deal with whatever comes up. If it lands a worker on a space you were planning to use, you’ll need to adapt to ensure you still play an effective round.
It offers a great challenge to put together an engine in a really short space of time, but it is achievable if you really optimise your options. And it has made me a better player when up against real live people, which also feels pretty good.
The Solo Gamer Conclusion
Overall, I would highly recommend any and all of these games to anyone wanting to play more solo games or who, like me, is finding opportunities to play with friends limited.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on 12/03/2019. Updated on 21/07/2021 to improve the information available.